It's only very occasionally that I feel compelled to write a blog post. Mostly because I fear that unless I have something really worthwhile to write about, what I intend as witty repartee would in fact result in a rambling stream of consciousness. However, today I do actually have something worth talking about. If you’re connected to me on FB then you may have seen a few posts I’ve shared about some of the things I have been doing here in Nepal, in most part in remote villages high in the Himalayan foothills.
I'm currently out in Nepal shooting/volunteering with an incredible Australian based NGO called The Big Umbrella Foundation (TBU). The Big Umbrella is committed to the principle that people should live free from poverty and exploitation. The organisation is, as they call it, 100% love driven. Meaning that it's workforce and all associated costs are completely voluntary. I cannot think of another organisation of it’s size and huge responsibilities in which no-one, including the CEO take any salary.
Bet you can't either.
The amazing off-shoot of this of course is that 100% of funds donated go exactly to where they should be going. Pretty special really. One of the major initiatives that TBU have out here is called the Rebuild Nepal Project, which began after last year's catastrophic earthquake. In order to understand the importance and magnitude of this work, you really need a little bit of background and context, so indulge me for a few minutes and I’ll paint you a little picture.
A little bit of background...
On April 25th 2015, at 11.56am (Nepal Standard time) a devastating 7.8M earthquake struck Nepal. The epicentre was in Bharpak, Gorkha about 34km east of the Lamung District and about 80Km north of Kathmandu. It’s estimated depth of 15km, which is considered shallow and far more damaging that quakes that originate deeper in the ground.
The inital quake itself lasted for 50 seconds. Just imagine that for a moment. 50 seconds. Count that slowly in your head and imagine. The earth moved and bubbled like water for nearly ONE FULL MINUTE. The ground at Durbar square in Kathmandu (the site of the most famous and some of the oldest temples and sacred monuments in Nepal) was said to have shifted back and forth THREE feet. Perhaps even more astonishingly, Mount Everest moved by and inch. What chance did the meagre mud and stone houses of remote Himalayan villages have?
After shocks continued at intervals of 15-20 minute with a magnitude of .4.5m or greater, up to a large 6.8M on the 26th. Entire villages were flattened, countless buildings, schools and ancient sacred monuments were destroyed. Thousands were killed and 100’s of thousands of people were made homeless overnight. By law all Nepalese residents were banned from living indoors so overnight 900,000 were forced onto the streets of Kathmandu to live in makeshift shelters as these aftershocks continued.
Then two weeks later as second devastating 7.3m earthquake hit, pulling down even more of buildings that were not yet collapsed and compounding the already catastrophic destruction and loss of life. The final death toll was close to 9000.
Reaching the 'black spots' with TBU
Almost all international aid and governmental recovery efforts flooded to the hardest hit areas of Ghorka and Sindhulpalchok. However some of the worst affected districts were left to fend for themselves, given the remoteness and difficulty of access.
Still one year on, in many of these areas referred to as 'black spots', international or governmental aid is still yet to reach some of the most severely hit villages. It has instead been left to small NGOs like TBU and local people to, quite literally, pick up the pieces of their broken lives.
So I've decided to publish a short series of blogs with excerpts from my travel diary on my wanderings and experiences in Nepal...starting at 6am the day after I arrive...no time for rest!